Mathieu Debuhcy’s debut season may have been cruelly cut short by injury but the Frenchman has no doubt Arsenal have enjoyed a good campaign and will be gunning for the title come next season.
The 29 year-old enjoyed a positive start to his career in north London. One of the highlights of their bleak opening to the season, Debuchy proved to be a solid addition to Arsene Wenger’s side, proving as adept in the centre of defence as he is in his preferred full back role.
However, with a dislocated shoulder on top of both knee and ankle surgery, Debuchy’s promising debut season came crashing to a premature end. And after this six-month spell on the sidelines, Debuchy now finds himself under pressure from a brilliant young full-back, Hector Bellerin.
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After a baptism of fire against Dortmund in the Champions League, followed soon after by a first half mauling by Stoke, Bellerin has shown a maturity and resilience beyond his tender years, quickly becoming both a fan and manager’s favourite despite this rocky start to his Arsenal career.
Despite the Spanish speedster posing a genuine threat to Debuchy’s own place in the Arsenal side, the frenchman remains adamant the team itself can challenge for the title next season, highlighting Arsenal’s status as a big club and the desire within the team to prove it.
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“I am convinced that we will challenge for the title [next season]”
He also went on to say that his injury-plagued first season with the Gunners has been a struggle, but is proud of the team’s efforts in the second half of the season, and believes continuing their impressive run will mean overall the campaign has been a positive one, despite his own personal battles.
"It is a shame because I felt very good with the team, I think I made a good start to the season, so to be off the pitch for almost six months was difficult to deal with."
BLESSING IN DISGUISE
The silver lining for Arsenal fans however is two fold. Not only did Debuchy prove he was a solid signing, versatile in defence and very much suited to their style of play. But also, his absence from the team has helped them break in a promising talent in the form of Hector Bellerin.
The North London side can go into next season knowing they have two very talented right backs at their disposal, an asset that only goes to further support Debuchy’s claim about their future title credentials.
Emerging talent and the idea of greater strength in depth has been a major theme of Arsenal’s season.
The disappointing start led to the more fickle Arsenal fans once again dusting off their Wenger out banners and parading them around the Emirates. However, with key players returning, as well as the unearthing of new talent within the club, the criticism synonymous with Arsenal regarding the depth of their squad, or thereby lack of it, has been ever so slowly disappearing as the season has progressed.
STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE
Francis Coquelin is another example of this trend. The french has been a revelation, lapping up praise from fans and pundits alike, with Thiery Henry even christening him with the nickname ‘Columbo’ because of the impressive work he has done since retuning from Charlton. A loan move which as of now seems ludicrous whichever way you look at it.
Nacho Monreal too has stepped up this year, silencing many of his own critics along the way. Kieran Gibbs is another whose progress is constantly hindered by injury and his path to becoming Arsenal’s first choice left back, and potential English one too, has been full of promise but little substance.
The frustration surrounding Gibbs’ development was also magnified by the lack of quality they had in reserve. Ever since Ashley Cole left, Arsenal have only ever been able to call on one competent full back.
Gael Clihcy was phenomenal for many years, but with the likes of Flamini, Andre Santos and even the aforementioned Coquelin providing cover in the past, Monreal’s first appearances in an Arsenal shirt only looked set to continue the trend, not break away from it.
Yet, as I said, Monreal too has been undergone a complete renaissance, discovering a level of performance that has seen him be preferred to Gibbs, even when the latter has been deemed fit enough to play.
Solid displays in the big games has endeared the Monreal to Arsenal fans, an area which in the past had actually been their main source of complaint.
It seems that Arsenal are slowly returning to their best. New signings are performing and gelling well together. Players already at the club are stepping up to the required level and those whose place in the starting XI was never really in question now find themselves at a club overflowing with competition, an environment which will only benefit the team in the long run and an essential part of the most successful teams in Europe.
Debuchy’s confidence in his side to perform next season is not unfounded. There is no doubt Arsenal have improved massively in the second half of the season and the sheer amount of points they have accumulated this calendar year rivals that of the best teams around Europe.
Champions league failure and a toothless start to the campaign will be in their back of the mind, of course. However, should they replicate last year’s FA Cup success, the potential to finish second as well as the growth in their squad, in quality and size, means they will have a strong platform to build on come August.
Arsenal can finally claim to have a competitive squad, and through Debuchy’s comments it seems the players themselves are hungry for success. With the foundations well and truly in place, a few more top- quality to steady the ship further could well transform Arsenal into prospective title challengers, both domestically and even on the European stage.